US Energy Secretary Rick Perry said on Tuesday that Westinghouse Electric Co is emerging out of bankruptcy and is now capable of delivering the planned six nuclear reactors to India on time.
On his first visit to India, Perry said India must look at “broad portfolio” of energy sources to deliver reliable electricity to its growing population and not just at affordability.
Civil nuclear cooperation has been a cornerstone of US-India relations. The 2016 deal, under which Westinghouse was to build six AP1000 reactors in Andhra Pradesh, was concluded after more than a decade of diplomatic efforts.
But it was in limbo after Westinghouse in March last year filed for bankruptcy following an estimated USD 13 billion of cost overruns at two US projects.
“The most important development is that Westinghouse is coming out of its bankruptcy” by shedding problematic parts of the company, Perry said.
“Westinghouse is exceptionally good at building reactors. They are the best reactor manufacturer in the world. Their technology is the best in the world. So they are now ready to go, build reactors.”
Asked if Westinghouse is capable of implementing the project on time, he said: “Absolutely.”
Perry said the Trump administration thought nuclear energy is very important and it would use it for ‘leaning forward’ in its partnership with various countries. “India is on top of that list.”
He rejected doubts being raised on spending millions of dollars on large and expensive foreign-built nuclear plants when dropping renewable power prices had provided with a surfeit of electricity generation, saying sustainable reliable power is key to meeting growing energy needs.
“Having a diverse portfolio (of energy sources) is really important. Does that mean that every one of those sources of energy will be cheaper than other, probably not. What is more important–reliability or affordability?” he asked.
India, he said, is growing rapidly and there is a need for a million new jobs every month. “Having a broad portfolio of energy is really important to do that,” he said.
“The argument I am making is that if this is just about the cheapest form of electricity that you can get here, you are going to have problems, you are going to have some challenges because at some point of time just relying on cheapest form of electricity will not address the economic challenges that you are going to have, the growth that you are going to have,” he said.
Giving an example of his Texas state, he said the state deregulated the electrical industry, made it very competitive, kept low rates and had a broad portfolio.
“Everybody wants to buy whatever they buy at the cheapest price they can get it. But you have to keep in mind that you may be putting in jeopardy your reliability at the altar of affordability,” he said.
India has one of the world’s oldest nuclear power programmes, having built Asia’s first research reactor in 1954.
But electricity generated from nuclear remains a small part of the energy basket. The country has 22 reactors providing up 2.1 per cent of the country’s overall capacity, compared with 17.7 per cent from renewable sources and 58.7 per cent from coal.
Perry said India and US are leaders in the non-proliferation while “China and Russia don’t care about non-proliferation.”
“India and the US should be very close partners. Our historic structures of democracy, following the rule of law, our constitutional freedoms, all of those would be a signal that these are countries that share a lot of same values,” he said.